Evolving controversy

Evolution theory. It has been a subject close to my heart for many years. Why is it controversial now?

For starters, recently [first week of Jan 2018] in India Union minister Satya Pal Singh , who is the minister of state for human resource development had stoked a controversy saying that our ancestors have nowhere mentioned that they saw an ape turning into a man, thereby casting doubts on Darwin’s evolution theory.

In January 2018, he stuck to his claim that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution of man is “not scientific” and called for an international debate on the issue to decide if it merits a place in school textbooks.

Blaming the media for fuelling a controversy over his statement, Singh said the issue calls for debate and not controversy. “In the last 100 years, many evidences have come out against the theory, in favour hardly anybody. It is not my statement. So many world scientists have said it,” Singh, the former Mumbai Police Commissioner, said.

I felt this is  good time to try to clear the murky atmosphere of Evolution.

What do I mean by evolution? It may be totally different from what you understand, so let me explain by defining it as I understand.

Evolution is a change in the characteristics of a living being over generations. 

Sounds simple, right?

The problem starts when people start assuming or rather over estimating the degree of change that this simple process can bring about.

For example, let us look at the dog.

Dog breeds

If you call this evolution, fine. I would agree. Dogs have been selectively bred by intelligent human beings to give them desired characteristics over hundreds of years.

But look at this picture

animalsEvolution

Creative Imagination

The above picture is what I call stretching your imagination 🙂

It is okay to think that dogs can evolve, but to think a dog can evolve into a cat? It just shows how ignorant these people are about the complexities of life and especially about genetics.

Let me explain in simple terms:

There are millions of species of living beings on earth [and the numbers are fast declining every day]

Each species is unique and cannot breed or produce viable offspring when mated with another, no matter how similar looking.

I believe that an intelligent being, popularly called God, created species and defined them some time in the past.

He also gave the creatures he created the ability to adapt and survive in this physical world that we inhabit. This is again a testimony to his wisdom, his ability to see beyond time and space, into the future, where he knew that we humans would be altering the world due to our greed and mindless consumption.

This ability to adapt and survive is being stretched beyond its designed parameters and hence we see species getting extinct these days.

However many species do adapt and survive, some better than others. For example pests like flies, cockroaches and mosquitoes seem to thrive in these conditions.

But there is a limit to how much a species can adapt or change, and that is written in its DNA by the one who made it in the first place.

The problem with us humans is that we like to think we are gods. That we can decide what is true. That we can simply issue a statement and it will change the facts:

For example, the United States National Academy of Sciences states:

Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth’s history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution. Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.

— National Academy of Sciences, Science, Evolution, and Creationism[24]

The confusion caused by the definition of Evolution adds to this. If you go by the simple definition that I gave earlier of dogs, it is nothing but adaptation. If you try to go by the definition proposed by some over-imaginative “scientists”, it would mean something like the Creative Imagination picture I posted.

That, dear reader, is what mainly causes the controversy. The degree of change considered possible by this process of ‘Evolution’.

And of course among other things the refusal to consider that there even exists a loving and intelligent being who could have created you and me and the entire universe.

The God who created you and me so wonderfully, has also given you free will to choose absolutely anything. You can decide what or whom to believe. Ultimately it is a matter of the heart.

I do not want to give you enough scientific reasons to make you realize the fallacies of the 2nd picture, but I want to plant a seed of a desire to find out for yourself what is true. Because in that way the faith you find would be truly yours.

 

 

 

 

 

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Real Heroes of Mumbai

I have seen a few heroes and heroines in reel and real life. Often the reel heroes seem larger than life and get a lot of adulation because of what they are seen to be doing. But here I want to present to you one man, Nandakumar Pawar, who in my opinion is a real hero of Mumbai.

He hails from the indigenous Koli fishermen community from Bhandup in the north-eastern suburb of Mumbai. They are traditional fishermen. He, along with a few likeminded friends, has done remarkable work in conserving the wetland systems of Mumbai that are so vital for its survival. Stalin D. of Vanashakti is his mentor and hero. I hope to cover Stalin in another blog.

The November 2015 flooding of Chennai is still fresh in the public mind as I write this, and the importance of preserving the natural wetlands is now becoming more evident to the common man, but public memory is short and the greed of developers is endless. That is why I thought of putting up this post, so that more people are aware of this hero of Mumbai. The floods and devastation caused in Chennai was mainly due to wetland destruction and rampant construction on natural drainage areas.

 

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Figure 1 Nandakumar Pawar and the wetlands of Mumbai

Nandakumar Pawar and his NGO the Ekveera Pratisthan has crusaded for the preservation of wetlands and fought not only greedy developers and politicians but even at times people from his own community who tried to erect illegal structures in the mangroves! The indigenous knowledge he has is based on real experience and he showed me the foolhardiness of trying to do mangrove replantation.

Mangrove replantation is being sponsored by several well-meaning Corporates. But what they are actually doing is damaging the existing wetlands.

Nandakumar showed me an area of intertidal grasslands in between the mangroves. These are important areas for birds as they provide resting and roosting places, where these birds lay their eggs and hatch their young. Some NGOs with funding from Corporates have converted part of this grassland into a mangrove replantation zone, but very few of the mangroves have survived! That happened also because the nursery supplied them with Ceriops Tagel species which cannot grow on hard ground.

Stalin from Vanashakti explained “We are replacing each and every saplings with avecenia marina and all will survive..and these grass lands are getting inundated due to seal level rise and mangroves are growing even in places where we or anyone else has not planted”

By the inundation of intertidal grasslands by rising sea water, with the subsequent destruction of their nesting sites, now birds have no place to go, and are deserting this patch as well.

I gained a new appreciation for the wisdom of God in creating all these different areas within the wetlands, including sparse and dense mangroves, intertidal mud flats and grass lands, and creeks where the tide flushes the entire system twice a day. Each is essential for the other and add to the beauty of the whole wetlands. Wetlands do not mean only mangroves, as Nandakumar repeated.

He also showed me the water being pumped out of the Sewage Treatment Plant [STP] at Bhandup Mulund Pumping station.  He was not at all happy with the quality of the water, and from the colour of the water I could make out that all is not well indeed.

Yet by God’s grace there are quite a few birds in other areas of Bhandup creek. I marvel at the resilience of these wonderful creatures. Nandakumar took us out on a boating expedition into the Thane creek where we took these pictures.

 

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Dr. Mathew with Nandakumar and friend

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Black headed Ibis

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Flamingoes looking worried

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Shocking sight: water covered with all sorts of garbage

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Flamingoes taking off

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Koli Fishermen in action

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What a mess we have made of our beautiful coast

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An elegant bird high up on the mangroves

 

 

We came back from the short boating trip with a determination to do our best to bring back Mumbai’s real heroes to the limelight and make more people aware of the wetlands and how we can preserve them and indeed the city of Mumbai for our future generations. Thank you Nandakumar, you have been a real inspiration to me.

Please let me know how you would like to contribute to this effort. I am part of the New Link Road Residents Forum, which is a group of likeminded individuals in Borivali Dahisar in North West Mumbai who are interested in preserving the environment and wetlands our area is blessed with. www.newlinkroad.wordpress.com is our blog.